Originally published in Wayfinder #15
Once the pyres start burning, it’s hard to tell the dead from the undead. It doesn’t help that one becomes another so easily.
I try to count faces as each body lands on the bonfire. I see a bearded bald man that I recognize as the retired baker Matheo. Had he died before, or was he one of the victims? Something split his head wide open, but I’m not bright enough to figure out if it was a battleaxe or a ghoul’s claws. As it turns out, I’m not bright enough to do much of anything but cause disaster.
“This is where priests would come in handy,” I tell Linnea, trying to sound like the thought just barely popped into my head.
“Don’t talk nonsense, Davorik.” Her reaction isn’t very surprising, even to me. Nearly a dozen people died last night before the city watch managed to get the ghouls under control.
“It’s not nonsense,” I defend. “Clerics kill undead, right? They could have stopped the attack or at least gotten folks back on their feet instead of landing in the fire.”
“And what do you think created these things in the first place?”
I swallow. “I don’t know…what?”
Linnea laughs bitterly and taps a long fingernail against one of my protruding fangs – a habit she has whenever she wants to remind me that I’m only her half-brother. “People see you with your big muscles and green skin, and they think they see a dumb brute. Don’t let them be right. Do some studying once in a while. Magic makes the dead rise. That type of magic comes from the gods and their followers.”
“But it’s not all like that. There are good clerics, too.”
“Look around you, brother. Look past last night’s disaster and you’ll see a thriving city. The wounded are being tended in hospitals that didn’t exist a few years ago. Children go to schools that used to be nothing more than money sinks for corrupt clergies. Everything we have in Avendale comes thanks to the fact that General Voran got rid of the churches and their damned holy wars.” She waves a hand at the burning corpses in the city square. “When the god-worshipers get involved, we get this.”
“But if it wasn’t for the god-worsh…I mean, if it wasn’t for a cleric, you wouldn’t—”
“No,” she says, cutting me off and turning away. “I wouldn’t. But you know what? Maybe I shouldn’t.”
She storms off to help with repairs, leaving me to deal with my questions alone. Continue reading